Hey Rookies: More Thoughts About October

Match Teacher Residency ends July 30. Then our alums go to their various new jobs. We have good observational data on all of those in Boston (more than half). Big picture? They'd doing well! Still, they're rookies. Prone to self-doubt.

I blogged a link to Roxanna's advice to avoid the October blues. Here's more.

A New Orleans friend, Ben Marcovitz, channeled what rookie teachers may say to themselves in October. Often never voiced in public. Worries that lurk in the teacher subconscious. Particularly prevalent in the dark hour before dawn, those uneasy minutes before the alarm beeps.

Ben sent this to his teachers. Rookies sometimes think:

1. My kids are out of control. i say "kids" because who the eff could call these devious miscreants "scholars."

2. i may as well reconsider teaching. i always knew i would. now. NOW is the time. kids are just going to be bad and soul-draining every year. it will never get easier.

3. mr. rogers didn't tell me i was special every day so i could end up getting treated like this. that scholar who never failed to remind me always of how much i'm changing lives, whose bright smile and appreciative words always let you know this warm/strict formula worked? well she CURSES. and HATES me. and tore out some girl's hair on the bus!

4. i can't remember the last time the last time i thought giving a demerit or smac buck meant anything at all. oh wait, i can. those were the days. how much happier i was then. sigh.

5. my data sucks. it's officially true that i'm not having an academic impact. my class just isnt working. i remember how beautiful and interestingly intimidating my content used to seem. now it's just some list of stuff that i'm going to have to change somehow to get anywhere with it.

6. it's OCTOBER yet thanksgiving is like four months away.

7. my advisory truly, truly is the worst one in the school. this is my fault, of course. and everyone can see it all over the DT roster.

8. oh those golden days of summer pd. we were really something then. i was growing like never before. now i feel like i may be getting worse.

Ben has seen many younger teachers go through this stage. He offers:

here's the real truth.

1. even structure is fun for students when it's new (aug/sep), but by october it's not new.

think of an obstacle course. now think of going on the same obstacle course everyday for three months straight. yup. not fun.

now imagine being reminded this obstacle course is preparing you for the brightest future you can think of. the WHY can never be said enough. don't say it to them like you say it to "kids." say it to them like you say it to your friends when you tell them about your school. get real with it.

2. for sake of your sanity the following terms are banned: "out of control," "really, really bad," "not working," "poison(ous)," "toxic," "destroying [or similar participle/gerund] culture," etc.

3. this long stretch in the fall is onerous not only because it's long, but because it's the most academically rich, the most prone to momentum and skill retention. this is terrifying for many scholars who are facing their deficits head-on for the first time. they will be angry at you about it and never tell you why.

4. for the same reason, you can pack learning in during this time that you'll be appreciating soon, when the weather's fine and celebration is in the air. you'll wish you had OCTOBER again when we get to March.

5. a necessary stage of cultural adjustment is ending the honeymoon. there is no real environmental transition without chaos and upheaval. the only answer is consistency. steadiness. the kids need to see you don't change and you never stop teaching them WHY. hold the hammer. shake the ground.

6. and finally: treat yourself like royalty. now is the time to use your spare moments for pampering, self-congratulatory ovations, and remembering all the things/people you love outside of school.